Commentary Magazine


Posts For: September 17, 2010

RE: It’s Not About O’Donnell

Abe has pegged the meaning of Christine O’Donnell. To paraphrase the deathless 1992 campaign slogan: “It’s the political tsunami, stupid.” The Democrats will hope to make the Delaware Senate campaign about O’Donnell’s peculiarities — and it’s their job to do that, just as it’s Republicans’ job to make it about her garden-variety tax-and-spend opponent. But the Democrats won’t be able to undermine the strength of the nationwide voter revolt by branding the Tea Party with the image of Christine O’Donnell. The brand has already been slapped on — and it didn’t deter the notoriously conventional GOP voters in a famously Blue State.

It’s becoming clear that ObamaCare, cap-and-trade, bank bailouts, private-sector takeovers, czars of the week, and epic deficit spending are more alarming to voters than Ms. O’Donnell’s views on sanctity in private life. As a (relevant) aside, I give most voters credit for understanding that O’Donnell doesn’t propose using the power of the state to enforce on others the particular views for which she has recently gained notoriety. That level of interference in private life is antithetical to the Tea Party demand for smaller government; indeed, under the daily assault of Obama’s energetic regulators, a growing number of voters are associating such intrusiveness explicitly and resentfully with the political left.

But the national electoral dynamic this year isn’t about O’Donnell; it’s about changing course. And in making their choice, the Republican voters in Delaware showed a perfect comprehension many senior conservatives haven’t. A vote for Mike Castle was, in fact, a vote for the status quo. The voters knew what they were voting for — and many of them would have said that the kind of strategic voting urged on them by pundits and political professionals is exactly what has produced the status quo.

I agree with Peter Wehner that Karl Rove is being excoriated unfairly for his stance on the Delaware primary. I think some of the most popular and entrenched figures in conservative politics have some catching up to do, but I predict most of them will do it. Perspicacity is what got them to where they are.

But the people are on the move. George W. Bush said often during the 2004 campaign that the poll that mattered was the one that occurred in the voting booth. In a majority of “voting booth” polls this year, the people have signaled that their dissatisfaction with our current course outweighs everything else. The tsunami is real — and to essay a metaphor, candidates like Christine O’Donnell are riding it on a surfboard. The Democratic Party is largely paralyzed on the beach, and many of the conservatives who don’t want to share its fate will have to get out on their surfboards and do the best they can, under the most unpredictable conditions we’ve seen for a long time.

Abe has pegged the meaning of Christine O’Donnell. To paraphrase the deathless 1992 campaign slogan: “It’s the political tsunami, stupid.” The Democrats will hope to make the Delaware Senate campaign about O’Donnell’s peculiarities — and it’s their job to do that, just as it’s Republicans’ job to make it about her garden-variety tax-and-spend opponent. But the Democrats won’t be able to undermine the strength of the nationwide voter revolt by branding the Tea Party with the image of Christine O’Donnell. The brand has already been slapped on — and it didn’t deter the notoriously conventional GOP voters in a famously Blue State.

It’s becoming clear that ObamaCare, cap-and-trade, bank bailouts, private-sector takeovers, czars of the week, and epic deficit spending are more alarming to voters than Ms. O’Donnell’s views on sanctity in private life. As a (relevant) aside, I give most voters credit for understanding that O’Donnell doesn’t propose using the power of the state to enforce on others the particular views for which she has recently gained notoriety. That level of interference in private life is antithetical to the Tea Party demand for smaller government; indeed, under the daily assault of Obama’s energetic regulators, a growing number of voters are associating such intrusiveness explicitly and resentfully with the political left.

But the national electoral dynamic this year isn’t about O’Donnell; it’s about changing course. And in making their choice, the Republican voters in Delaware showed a perfect comprehension many senior conservatives haven’t. A vote for Mike Castle was, in fact, a vote for the status quo. The voters knew what they were voting for — and many of them would have said that the kind of strategic voting urged on them by pundits and political professionals is exactly what has produced the status quo.

I agree with Peter Wehner that Karl Rove is being excoriated unfairly for his stance on the Delaware primary. I think some of the most popular and entrenched figures in conservative politics have some catching up to do, but I predict most of them will do it. Perspicacity is what got them to where they are.

But the people are on the move. George W. Bush said often during the 2004 campaign that the poll that mattered was the one that occurred in the voting booth. In a majority of “voting booth” polls this year, the people have signaled that their dissatisfaction with our current course outweighs everything else. The tsunami is real — and to essay a metaphor, candidates like Christine O’Donnell are riding it on a surfboard. The Democratic Party is largely paralyzed on the beach, and many of the conservatives who don’t want to share its fate will have to get out on their surfboards and do the best they can, under the most unpredictable conditions we’ve seen for a long time.

Read Less

David Stockman on the American Economy

David Stockman, who was President Reagan’s first OMB director, gave an interview to the Wall Street Journal’s Alan Murray. I certainly don’t agree with everything Stockman says. He has almost nothing to say about how to create growth in the economy. And Stockman’s betrayal of President Reagan (when he published The Triumph of Politics: Why the Reagan Revolution Failed) was troubling then and remains troubling today. (In the interview, Stockman addresses the SEC criminal charges that were made against him, charges that were later dropped.)

Still, Stockman is not a stupid man, and his analysis of America’s precarious fiscal situation, while alarming, is worth listening to.

David Stockman, who was President Reagan’s first OMB director, gave an interview to the Wall Street Journal’s Alan Murray. I certainly don’t agree with everything Stockman says. He has almost nothing to say about how to create growth in the economy. And Stockman’s betrayal of President Reagan (when he published The Triumph of Politics: Why the Reagan Revolution Failed) was troubling then and remains troubling today. (In the interview, Stockman addresses the SEC criminal charges that were made against him, charges that were later dropped.)

Still, Stockman is not a stupid man, and his analysis of America’s precarious fiscal situation, while alarming, is worth listening to.

Read Less

It’s Not About O’Donnell

Christine O’Donnell may or may not be electable. She certainly has her eccentricities and defects. But what’s distasteful about the Delaware candidate for U.S. Senate has little to do with the Tea Party. Sexual abstinence is not a pillar of the movement; nor are suspicious lawsuits or conspiracy mongering.

The very reason O’Donnell is attracting attention is because she’s an aberration and not an exemplar. If the Tea Party were made up of nothing but Christine O’Donnells, it would not have produced a Tupperware party’s worth of turnout at a single event. Yet the movement caught fire among America’s working class and reshaped the political landscape in about a year. It befuddled the liberal establishment because it could not easily be pegged as crazy, misguided, or inauthentic.

The mainstream media’s objection to the Tea Party was aesthetic. For all the concern about how America was wary of a presidential candidate with a funny name and a different appearance, the small-town bearings of the Tea Partiers had the open-minded elites packing their bags for Canada.

But Nancy Pelosi and the liberal media couldn’t wage an effective campaign of destruction on aesthetic grounds. Now, with O’Donnell, they think they have the substance to move forward. We see article after article about the Tea Party as a conservative Frankenstein’s monster. But despite the left’s best efforts, that’s an insignificant red-herring subplot, not the central political narrative.

What is most significant is that small-government, anti-elite, anti-tax sentiment is so strong that an apparent oddball candidate was not enough to dissuade conservatives of their passion for reform. A library’s worth of opinion pieces cannot reverse the reality described in this story from today’s New York Times:

The Democrats will depend on labor unions — the shock troops of their political campaigns — to offset two new developments this election cycle: Tea Party enthusiasm and corporations’ ability to spend unlimited amounts thanks to a Supreme Court ruling.

Labor leaders, alarmed at a possible Republican takeover of one or both Houses of Congress, promise to devote a record amount of money and manpower to helping Democrats stave off disaster. But political analysts, and union leaders themselves, say that their efforts may not be enough because union members, like other important parts of the Democratic base, are not feeling particularly enthusiastic about the party — a reality that, in turn, further dampens the Democrats’ chances of holding onto their Congressional majorities.

Christine O’Donnell’s eccentricities will not impact the thinking of America’s private-sector union members. Individual laborers who hear in Tea Party principles the articulation of their own concrete grievances may perilously weaken union support for Democrats. I wonder if many Republicans will consider losing a Senate election in one state too high a price to pay for undermining labor’s allegiance to the Democratic Party nationwide.

Christine O’Donnell may or may not be electable. She certainly has her eccentricities and defects. But what’s distasteful about the Delaware candidate for U.S. Senate has little to do with the Tea Party. Sexual abstinence is not a pillar of the movement; nor are suspicious lawsuits or conspiracy mongering.

The very reason O’Donnell is attracting attention is because she’s an aberration and not an exemplar. If the Tea Party were made up of nothing but Christine O’Donnells, it would not have produced a Tupperware party’s worth of turnout at a single event. Yet the movement caught fire among America’s working class and reshaped the political landscape in about a year. It befuddled the liberal establishment because it could not easily be pegged as crazy, misguided, or inauthentic.

The mainstream media’s objection to the Tea Party was aesthetic. For all the concern about how America was wary of a presidential candidate with a funny name and a different appearance, the small-town bearings of the Tea Partiers had the open-minded elites packing their bags for Canada.

But Nancy Pelosi and the liberal media couldn’t wage an effective campaign of destruction on aesthetic grounds. Now, with O’Donnell, they think they have the substance to move forward. We see article after article about the Tea Party as a conservative Frankenstein’s monster. But despite the left’s best efforts, that’s an insignificant red-herring subplot, not the central political narrative.

What is most significant is that small-government, anti-elite, anti-tax sentiment is so strong that an apparent oddball candidate was not enough to dissuade conservatives of their passion for reform. A library’s worth of opinion pieces cannot reverse the reality described in this story from today’s New York Times:

The Democrats will depend on labor unions — the shock troops of their political campaigns — to offset two new developments this election cycle: Tea Party enthusiasm and corporations’ ability to spend unlimited amounts thanks to a Supreme Court ruling.

Labor leaders, alarmed at a possible Republican takeover of one or both Houses of Congress, promise to devote a record amount of money and manpower to helping Democrats stave off disaster. But political analysts, and union leaders themselves, say that their efforts may not be enough because union members, like other important parts of the Democratic base, are not feeling particularly enthusiastic about the party — a reality that, in turn, further dampens the Democrats’ chances of holding onto their Congressional majorities.

Christine O’Donnell’s eccentricities will not impact the thinking of America’s private-sector union members. Individual laborers who hear in Tea Party principles the articulation of their own concrete grievances may perilously weaken union support for Democrats. I wonder if many Republicans will consider losing a Senate election in one state too high a price to pay for undermining labor’s allegiance to the Democratic Party nationwide.

Read Less

Response to Ramesh Ponnuru

Over at NRO, Ramesh Ponnuru (gently) takes me to task:

Peter Wehner writes, “So the notion that Rove has suddenly become an ‘establishment Republican’ and a traitor to the conservative cause simply isn’t plausible. It is, in fact, risible.” I think Wehner would be better off challenging the notion that to be part of the Republican establishment is to be a traitor to the conservative cause. For if Rove isn’t part of the Republican establishment then the term has no meaning. The truth is that conservatism needs a political party to house it; parties need establishments; and establishments have characteristic vices. Conservatism should want an intelligent and conservative party establishment, not disestablishment.

Two points in response: Ramesh (whose work I generally admire and agree with) seems to have overlooked the crucial word “and” — as in, “’establishment Republican’ and traitor to the conservative cause.” What I wrote is true and the charges against Rove are risible.

Second, I placed quote marks around the phrase establishment Republican. I did so intentionally, since those words have a particular (negative) meaning to Rove’s critics; not to me. I thought that this was all clear enough, just as I thought it would be obvious that I believe that conservatism needs an intelligent and conservative party establishment. But if it wasn’t, let me state it now, for the record: I am not and never have been for a conservative party disestablishment.

Over at NRO, Ramesh Ponnuru (gently) takes me to task:

Peter Wehner writes, “So the notion that Rove has suddenly become an ‘establishment Republican’ and a traitor to the conservative cause simply isn’t plausible. It is, in fact, risible.” I think Wehner would be better off challenging the notion that to be part of the Republican establishment is to be a traitor to the conservative cause. For if Rove isn’t part of the Republican establishment then the term has no meaning. The truth is that conservatism needs a political party to house it; parties need establishments; and establishments have characteristic vices. Conservatism should want an intelligent and conservative party establishment, not disestablishment.

Two points in response: Ramesh (whose work I generally admire and agree with) seems to have overlooked the crucial word “and” — as in, “’establishment Republican’ and traitor to the conservative cause.” What I wrote is true and the charges against Rove are risible.

Second, I placed quote marks around the phrase establishment Republican. I did so intentionally, since those words have a particular (negative) meaning to Rove’s critics; not to me. I thought that this was all clear enough, just as I thought it would be obvious that I believe that conservatism needs an intelligent and conservative party establishment. But if it wasn’t, let me state it now, for the record: I am not and never have been for a conservative party disestablishment.

Read Less

Can Paladino Be New York’s Paladin?

Speaking of Tea Party successes in the elections last Tuesday, it seems the upset win of Christine O’Donnell in Delaware sucked most of the oxygen out of the blogosphere. Thus Carl Paladino’s success in capturing the Republican nomination for governor in New York has not received that much attention except to have it widely assumed that he cannot win against the Democratic candidate, Andrew Cuomo.

I’m not so sure. Paladino didn’t just defeat former congressman Rick Lazio, the anointed of the Republican establishment in New York; he crushed him 62 percent to 38 percent.

Paladino has been called a bomb-thrower, especially for his impolitic remarks like calling the speaker of the New York State Assembly, Sheldon Silver, the Antichrist. That might indeed be a tad over the top, but Sheldon Silver is very much the poster child for all that is wrong with Albany. I think many New Yorkers will agree with Paladino. And he has some baggage, including a 10-year-old out-of-wedlock daughter. But as his wife has evidently forgiven him and the daughter is very much a part of the Paladino family, I suspect that New Yorkers — a forgiving bunch when it comes to personal peccadilloes — will not hold it against him. An acknowledged illegitimate child didn’t stop Grover Cleveland from becoming governor of New York and then president. (Whether Cleveland was actually the father is a good question, as the mother had been bestowing her favors on more than one man, including Cleveland’s law partner. Cleveland apparently took responsibility because he was the only bachelor among the group, making him a gentleman twice over.)

Assuming there are no major skeletons to come out of the closet (and the media is surely scouring every nook and cranny of Paladino’s career looking for them) and he can come across in debate and on the campaign trail as mad-as-hell but not out-of-control, I think he has an excellent chance of winning on Nov. 2. A bomb-thrower, I think, is exactly what the long-abused citizens of New York are looking for. Add to that the fact that Paladino is seriously rich and can self-finance a credible campaign, even in super-expensive New York State. And his opponent is the very model of a modern political-establishment apparatchik, son of a former governor who presided over Albany for 12 years and did nothing — absolutely nothing — to reverse the slow decline of the Empire State or to reform its ever more corrupt political ways. He didn’t even try.

Mario Cuomo was the very embodiment of the status quo, and there is no reason whatever to think that his rather colorless son will be any different. This gives Paladino a heaven-sent political slogan: “No more of the status Cuomo!”

Speaking of Tea Party successes in the elections last Tuesday, it seems the upset win of Christine O’Donnell in Delaware sucked most of the oxygen out of the blogosphere. Thus Carl Paladino’s success in capturing the Republican nomination for governor in New York has not received that much attention except to have it widely assumed that he cannot win against the Democratic candidate, Andrew Cuomo.

I’m not so sure. Paladino didn’t just defeat former congressman Rick Lazio, the anointed of the Republican establishment in New York; he crushed him 62 percent to 38 percent.

Paladino has been called a bomb-thrower, especially for his impolitic remarks like calling the speaker of the New York State Assembly, Sheldon Silver, the Antichrist. That might indeed be a tad over the top, but Sheldon Silver is very much the poster child for all that is wrong with Albany. I think many New Yorkers will agree with Paladino. And he has some baggage, including a 10-year-old out-of-wedlock daughter. But as his wife has evidently forgiven him and the daughter is very much a part of the Paladino family, I suspect that New Yorkers — a forgiving bunch when it comes to personal peccadilloes — will not hold it against him. An acknowledged illegitimate child didn’t stop Grover Cleveland from becoming governor of New York and then president. (Whether Cleveland was actually the father is a good question, as the mother had been bestowing her favors on more than one man, including Cleveland’s law partner. Cleveland apparently took responsibility because he was the only bachelor among the group, making him a gentleman twice over.)

Assuming there are no major skeletons to come out of the closet (and the media is surely scouring every nook and cranny of Paladino’s career looking for them) and he can come across in debate and on the campaign trail as mad-as-hell but not out-of-control, I think he has an excellent chance of winning on Nov. 2. A bomb-thrower, I think, is exactly what the long-abused citizens of New York are looking for. Add to that the fact that Paladino is seriously rich and can self-finance a credible campaign, even in super-expensive New York State. And his opponent is the very model of a modern political-establishment apparatchik, son of a former governor who presided over Albany for 12 years and did nothing — absolutely nothing — to reverse the slow decline of the Empire State or to reform its ever more corrupt political ways. He didn’t even try.

Mario Cuomo was the very embodiment of the status quo, and there is no reason whatever to think that his rather colorless son will be any different. This gives Paladino a heaven-sent political slogan: “No more of the status Cuomo!”

Read Less

This Time, You’ve Got Me

In his article, “Hillary’s Dangerous Mideast Leap” (which Jen discusses here), Leslie Gelb caustically suggests that Hillary Clinton (“Washington’s current flavor of the month”) and her boss (“the administration’s other Middle East expert”) must know something we don’t:

You wouldn’t think the two American leaders would risk the prestige and power of the United States of America on yet another effort to reconcile these two blood enemies without good grounds for doing so, would you?

Gelb hopes that the Obama administration “did not shove Palestinians and Israelis into direct talks … just to get them talking to each other,” because once such talks fail, the explosion will likely be greater than if there had been no negotiations at all — an observation Jeffrey Goldberg calls “very smart.”

The peace process is too big to fail after only one month — especially one month before a U.S. election, shaping up as a referendum on Obama — so the administration will likely find a way to get Abbas to back down from his insistence on preconditions, which Obama himself already abandoned. But why would anyone think a process featuring a Palestinian “president” whose term of office ended 20 months ago, who cannot set foot in half his putative state, who cannot schedule local elections even in the half he nominally controls, who has failed to condition his public for compromise, and whose reluctance to negotiate is palpable, might succeed?

Near the end of his 800-page book on The Missing Peace, in a chapter entitled “Learning the Lessons of the Past,” Dennis Ross wrote that:

Whenever my exasperation with Arafat was reaching its limits, [Mahmoud Abbas], Abu Ala, or [others] … would remind me that only Arafat had the moral authority among Palestinians to compromise on Jerusalem, refugees, and borders. … “Remember, he is the only one who can concede on fundamental issues.” Often [Abbas] … or other Palestinian negotiators would tell me, “You prefer dealing with us because you see us as more moderate, but we cannot deliver, only he can.”

Ross wrote that the U.S. had created a process that became “self-sustaining and essentially an end in itself” — which seems a good description of the process in which Obama is currently engaged. The failed peace processes of Bill Clinton and George W. Bush should have cautioned against simply starting a new one, but Obama rushed right back in, from the first week of his presidency, and now is deeply invested in a process he cannot allow to end, even if it is obvious that it cannot succeed. What was he thinking?

In his article, “Hillary’s Dangerous Mideast Leap” (which Jen discusses here), Leslie Gelb caustically suggests that Hillary Clinton (“Washington’s current flavor of the month”) and her boss (“the administration’s other Middle East expert”) must know something we don’t:

You wouldn’t think the two American leaders would risk the prestige and power of the United States of America on yet another effort to reconcile these two blood enemies without good grounds for doing so, would you?

Gelb hopes that the Obama administration “did not shove Palestinians and Israelis into direct talks … just to get them talking to each other,” because once such talks fail, the explosion will likely be greater than if there had been no negotiations at all — an observation Jeffrey Goldberg calls “very smart.”

The peace process is too big to fail after only one month — especially one month before a U.S. election, shaping up as a referendum on Obama — so the administration will likely find a way to get Abbas to back down from his insistence on preconditions, which Obama himself already abandoned. But why would anyone think a process featuring a Palestinian “president” whose term of office ended 20 months ago, who cannot set foot in half his putative state, who cannot schedule local elections even in the half he nominally controls, who has failed to condition his public for compromise, and whose reluctance to negotiate is palpable, might succeed?

Near the end of his 800-page book on The Missing Peace, in a chapter entitled “Learning the Lessons of the Past,” Dennis Ross wrote that:

Whenever my exasperation with Arafat was reaching its limits, [Mahmoud Abbas], Abu Ala, or [others] … would remind me that only Arafat had the moral authority among Palestinians to compromise on Jerusalem, refugees, and borders. … “Remember, he is the only one who can concede on fundamental issues.” Often [Abbas] … or other Palestinian negotiators would tell me, “You prefer dealing with us because you see us as more moderate, but we cannot deliver, only he can.”

Ross wrote that the U.S. had created a process that became “self-sustaining and essentially an end in itself” — which seems a good description of the process in which Obama is currently engaged. The failed peace processes of Bill Clinton and George W. Bush should have cautioned against simply starting a new one, but Obama rushed right back in, from the first week of his presidency, and now is deeply invested in a process he cannot allow to end, even if it is obvious that it cannot succeed. What was he thinking?

Read Less

Guess the Judge’s Background

As readers of conservative blogs and magazines know, the right punditocracy has a game of “guess the party.” When a Republican does something bad, the mainstream media begin the story “Republican Sam Smith …” When a Democrat does it, you will have to search long and hard for a hint of party affiliation. The problem is so endemic that if party affiliation is not mentioned in the first graph, it is safe to assume a Democrat is involved.

So we have this story of a corrupt district court judge who is facing impeachment. As the Washington Post observes, it is juicy:

The trial is an extraordinary spectacle, featuring allegations that lawyers and bail bondsmen plied the judge, a reformed drinker and gambler, with gifts to gain his courtroom favor. Cash in envelopes. Bottles of Absolut and coolers of shrimp. A Vegas bachelor party for Porteous’s son, complete with lap dance. It showcases both the often-sordid politics of Louisiana and a struggle over constitutional precedents.

So who appointed him? What’s the judge’s party background? In the 13th paragraph we get this clue: “Mutterings about the ethics of Porteous, a state judge for 10 years and former prosecutor, began almost as soon as he landed on it in 1994.” Landed by osmosis? Ah, that would make him a Clinton appointee! Good to know.

And yes, he’s a pretty liberal judge. In 2002:

U.S. District Judge G. Thomas Porteous Jr. ordered the state to stop giving money to individuals or organizations that “convey religious messages or otherwise advance religion” with tax dollars. He said there was ample evidence that many of the groups participating in the Governor’s Program on Abstinence were “furthering religious objectives.” …

The suit, filed in May by the American Civil Liberties Union, was the first legal challenge to abstinence-only programs created under the 1996 welfare reform legislation. Bush has asked Congress to extend the $50 million-a-year program and increase other federal abstinence grants from $40 million this year to $73 million next year.

Also in 2002:

Banning pacifiers and glow sticks in an effort to curb drug use at all-night raves violates free speech and does not further the government’s war on drugs, a federal judge has ruled in permanently blocking federal agents from enforcing the ban. … The American Civil Liberties Union, though, said the ban was unconstitutional and challenged it in federal court. After the suit was filed last year, U.S. District Judge G. Thomas Porteous issued a temporary restraining order preventing the ban from taking effect.

Porteous issued a 12-page ruling Monday that sided with the ACLU in its attack on the ban.

And in 1999, in Causeway Medical Suite v. Foster, Porteous struck down the state ban on partial birth abortion.

Now none of these cases is the basis for the impeachment. But you would think that the report would say something like “A Clinton appointee responsible for a number of controversial rulings in the ACLU’s favor …” Believe me, if a Reagan appointee had been involved in controversial rulings, we would have read “A Reagan appointee criticized by civil rights groups for a slew of controversial rulings against women, orphans, and children …”

Well, you get the picture.

As readers of conservative blogs and magazines know, the right punditocracy has a game of “guess the party.” When a Republican does something bad, the mainstream media begin the story “Republican Sam Smith …” When a Democrat does it, you will have to search long and hard for a hint of party affiliation. The problem is so endemic that if party affiliation is not mentioned in the first graph, it is safe to assume a Democrat is involved.

So we have this story of a corrupt district court judge who is facing impeachment. As the Washington Post observes, it is juicy:

The trial is an extraordinary spectacle, featuring allegations that lawyers and bail bondsmen plied the judge, a reformed drinker and gambler, with gifts to gain his courtroom favor. Cash in envelopes. Bottles of Absolut and coolers of shrimp. A Vegas bachelor party for Porteous’s son, complete with lap dance. It showcases both the often-sordid politics of Louisiana and a struggle over constitutional precedents.

So who appointed him? What’s the judge’s party background? In the 13th paragraph we get this clue: “Mutterings about the ethics of Porteous, a state judge for 10 years and former prosecutor, began almost as soon as he landed on it in 1994.” Landed by osmosis? Ah, that would make him a Clinton appointee! Good to know.

And yes, he’s a pretty liberal judge. In 2002:

U.S. District Judge G. Thomas Porteous Jr. ordered the state to stop giving money to individuals or organizations that “convey religious messages or otherwise advance religion” with tax dollars. He said there was ample evidence that many of the groups participating in the Governor’s Program on Abstinence were “furthering religious objectives.” …

The suit, filed in May by the American Civil Liberties Union, was the first legal challenge to abstinence-only programs created under the 1996 welfare reform legislation. Bush has asked Congress to extend the $50 million-a-year program and increase other federal abstinence grants from $40 million this year to $73 million next year.

Also in 2002:

Banning pacifiers and glow sticks in an effort to curb drug use at all-night raves violates free speech and does not further the government’s war on drugs, a federal judge has ruled in permanently blocking federal agents from enforcing the ban. … The American Civil Liberties Union, though, said the ban was unconstitutional and challenged it in federal court. After the suit was filed last year, U.S. District Judge G. Thomas Porteous issued a temporary restraining order preventing the ban from taking effect.

Porteous issued a 12-page ruling Monday that sided with the ACLU in its attack on the ban.

And in 1999, in Causeway Medical Suite v. Foster, Porteous struck down the state ban on partial birth abortion.

Now none of these cases is the basis for the impeachment. But you would think that the report would say something like “A Clinton appointee responsible for a number of controversial rulings in the ACLU’s favor …” Believe me, if a Reagan appointee had been involved in controversial rulings, we would have read “A Reagan appointee criticized by civil rights groups for a slew of controversial rulings against women, orphans, and children …”

Well, you get the picture.

Read Less

Happy Constitution Day

On this day in 1787, delegates to the Federal Convention completed their work (which began in May) and voted to approve a new Constitution, which was submitted to the states for ratification (which occurred on June 21, 1788). Now the oldest written national constitution in the world, the British statesman William Gladstone described it as “the most remarkable work known to me in modern times to have been produced by the human intellect.” It was also on this day that Benjamin Franklin, who by then was in his 80s and seldom participated in the constitutional debates, delivered a wise and moving speech in which he said this:

I agree to this Constitution with all its faults, if they are such; because I think a general Government necessary for us, and there is no form of Government but what may be a blessing to the people if well administered, and believe farther that this is likely to be well administered for a course of years, and can only end in Despotism, as other forms have done before it, when the people shall become so corrupted as to need despotic Government, being incapable of any other. I doubt too whether any other Convention we can obtain, may be able to make a better Constitution. For when you assemble a number of men to have the advantage of their joint wisdom, you inevitably assemble with those men, all their prejudices, their passions, their errors of opinion, their local interests, and their selfish views. From such an assembly can a perfect production be expected? It therefore astonishes me, Sir, to find this system approaching so near to perfection as it does; and I think it will astonish our enemies, who are waiting with confidence to hear that our councils are confounded like those of the Builders of Babel; and that our States are on the point of separation, only to meet hereafter for the purpose of cutting one another’s throats. Thus I consent, Sir, to this Constitution because I expect no better, and because I am not sure, that it is not the best. The opinions I have had of its errors, I sacrifice to the public good. I have never whispered a syllable of them abroad. Within these walls they were born, and here they shall die.

It is hard to overstate the importance of, and the sheer brilliance and prescience of, the American Constitution. It established the world’s first stable democratic government and provided the governing framework for the most powerful and benevolent nation in human history. The product above all of 36-year-old James Madison, an unparalleled master of political and constitutional theory, the Constitution also resulted in the Federalist Papers — 85 essays written between October 1787 and May 1788 by Alexander Hamilton (author of 51 of the essays), Madison (author of 29), and John Jay (author of five) — which explain the whole theory of constitutional government and which helped pave the way for ratification.

George W. Carey and James McClellan, in their fine introduction to The Federalist, write that this collection of essays, hastily written by three politicians in the midst of a political struggle, makes the Federalist Papers “a unique document, unparalleled in the literature of the Western political tradition.”

On this day in 1787, delegates to the Federal Convention completed their work (which began in May) and voted to approve a new Constitution, which was submitted to the states for ratification (which occurred on June 21, 1788). Now the oldest written national constitution in the world, the British statesman William Gladstone described it as “the most remarkable work known to me in modern times to have been produced by the human intellect.” It was also on this day that Benjamin Franklin, who by then was in his 80s and seldom participated in the constitutional debates, delivered a wise and moving speech in which he said this:

I agree to this Constitution with all its faults, if they are such; because I think a general Government necessary for us, and there is no form of Government but what may be a blessing to the people if well administered, and believe farther that this is likely to be well administered for a course of years, and can only end in Despotism, as other forms have done before it, when the people shall become so corrupted as to need despotic Government, being incapable of any other. I doubt too whether any other Convention we can obtain, may be able to make a better Constitution. For when you assemble a number of men to have the advantage of their joint wisdom, you inevitably assemble with those men, all their prejudices, their passions, their errors of opinion, their local interests, and their selfish views. From such an assembly can a perfect production be expected? It therefore astonishes me, Sir, to find this system approaching so near to perfection as it does; and I think it will astonish our enemies, who are waiting with confidence to hear that our councils are confounded like those of the Builders of Babel; and that our States are on the point of separation, only to meet hereafter for the purpose of cutting one another’s throats. Thus I consent, Sir, to this Constitution because I expect no better, and because I am not sure, that it is not the best. The opinions I have had of its errors, I sacrifice to the public good. I have never whispered a syllable of them abroad. Within these walls they were born, and here they shall die.

It is hard to overstate the importance of, and the sheer brilliance and prescience of, the American Constitution. It established the world’s first stable democratic government and provided the governing framework for the most powerful and benevolent nation in human history. The product above all of 36-year-old James Madison, an unparalleled master of political and constitutional theory, the Constitution also resulted in the Federalist Papers — 85 essays written between October 1787 and May 1788 by Alexander Hamilton (author of 51 of the essays), Madison (author of 29), and John Jay (author of five) — which explain the whole theory of constitutional government and which helped pave the way for ratification.

George W. Carey and James McClellan, in their fine introduction to The Federalist, write that this collection of essays, hastily written by three politicians in the midst of a political struggle, makes the Federalist Papers “a unique document, unparalleled in the literature of the Western political tradition.”

Read Less

RE: Their Time Has Come

I certainly agree with Jen that Barack Obama helped mightily to make the Tea Party movement as powerful as it has become. But I also think the movement represents the culmination of a gathering anger that is decades old. After all, it was Jimmy Carter who first campaigned on the theme of changing Washington’s ways, although he was a dismal failure at that. Indeed, he was eaten alive by Washington’s ways, and has been whining about it ever since. He was elected the same year that Network came out, with its now iconic signature line, “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore!” being shouted out of windows across America, much like the Iranians yelling “Allahu Akbar!” from the roof tops.

Ronald Reagan was much more successful than Carter, but the forces of the status quo were only defeated by him, not annihilated, and have been attempting a counter-reformation ever since, not without success. But the forces of history have been against them, and it seems that Barack Obama’s regressive ideas, Chicago ways, and unlikeable personality have now galvanized the Tea Party movement and turned its platform into an immensely powerful political force. The establishment and its media minions are left saying, like Paul Newman’s Butch Cassidy, “Who are those guys?”

Victor Hugo explained who they are in 1877 in his novel L’histoire d’un Crime: “On résiste à l’invasion des armées; on ne résiste pas à l’invasion des idées.” One can resist the invasion of armies but not the invasion of ideas.

I certainly agree with Jen that Barack Obama helped mightily to make the Tea Party movement as powerful as it has become. But I also think the movement represents the culmination of a gathering anger that is decades old. After all, it was Jimmy Carter who first campaigned on the theme of changing Washington’s ways, although he was a dismal failure at that. Indeed, he was eaten alive by Washington’s ways, and has been whining about it ever since. He was elected the same year that Network came out, with its now iconic signature line, “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore!” being shouted out of windows across America, much like the Iranians yelling “Allahu Akbar!” from the roof tops.

Ronald Reagan was much more successful than Carter, but the forces of the status quo were only defeated by him, not annihilated, and have been attempting a counter-reformation ever since, not without success. But the forces of history have been against them, and it seems that Barack Obama’s regressive ideas, Chicago ways, and unlikeable personality have now galvanized the Tea Party movement and turned its platform into an immensely powerful political force. The establishment and its media minions are left saying, like Paul Newman’s Butch Cassidy, “Who are those guys?”

Victor Hugo explained who they are in 1877 in his novel L’histoire d’un Crime: “On résiste à l’invasion des armées; on ne résiste pas à l’invasion des idées.” One can resist the invasion of armies but not the invasion of ideas.

Read Less

The Playing Field Shifts

Delaware may not be doable for the Republicans, but take a look at Wisconsin: “After a decisive win in Tuesday’s Republican Primary, businessman Ron Johnson now holds a seven-point lead over incumbent Democrat Russ Feingold in Wisconsin’s U.S. Senate race.” This may be part of a post-primary-vote bump, but still.

The Republicans need 10 seats to take the Senate. (I will put aside the possibility of a Joe Lieberman party switch.) Here are nine: Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, North Dakota, Wisconsin, California, Nevada, Colorado, and Pennsylvania. Add either Washington or West Virginia and the GOP gets to 10. Hard? Yes. Impossible? Hardly.

Delaware may not be doable for the Republicans, but take a look at Wisconsin: “After a decisive win in Tuesday’s Republican Primary, businessman Ron Johnson now holds a seven-point lead over incumbent Democrat Russ Feingold in Wisconsin’s U.S. Senate race.” This may be part of a post-primary-vote bump, but still.

The Republicans need 10 seats to take the Senate. (I will put aside the possibility of a Joe Lieberman party switch.) Here are nine: Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, North Dakota, Wisconsin, California, Nevada, Colorado, and Pennsylvania. Add either Washington or West Virginia and the GOP gets to 10. Hard? Yes. Impossible? Hardly.

Read Less

Who Will Get Michelle Rhee?

Michelle Rhee is expected to leave her post as chancellor of the Washington D.C. schools following the defeat of Mayor Adrian Fenty in the Democratic primary. Fenty had supported her aggressive reform agenda, while his primary opponent, Vincent Gray, plainly did not.

Here’s the story in a nutshell:

Gray, a genteel politician from the old school, has deep roots in the African American middle class that has been the heart of the District’s public school teacher corps. That constituency has been traumatized by many of Rhee’s reform efforts, which have included hundreds of layoffs, firings and outspoken comments about the poor quality of D.C. educators.

Rhee, like the mayor who hired her, had passions that veered more toward inputs and outcomes than collaboration and consensus. The record on her watch includes generally improved test scores, an enrollment that has stabilized after decades of decline, a labor contract that gives the District new power over teacher job assignments and an evaluation system that can lead to dismissal for instructors who score poorly.

Not hard to figure out which side you should be on, is it? Gray can’t fathom why Rhee would rock the boat:

The layoffs were bad enough, but Gray expressed particular concern about Rhee’s apparent disregard for the protocols, procedures and personal collaborations that Gray considered essential to smooth functioning within his political world. In this case, the process dictated that Rhee made sure that the council wasn’t blindsided by the news.

But Rhee displayed little interest in either process or political niceties as she rushed to implement an ambitious agenda. She told Gray that she wasn’t trying to embarrass the council, that she just wanted to protect the interests of children.

“You can choose to believe that or not,” Rhee said. …

Perhaps more than anything, Gray was mystified by what he regarded as her political tin ear, exemplified, in his view by her infamous Time magazine cover.

“I said, ‘Michelle, why would you agree to be photographed with a broom on the cover of Time magazine?’ ” Gray said in a 2009 interview. ‘What kind of message do you think that sends?’ “

It sends the message that she has no patience with hacks like Gray. And you can appreciate her comments at a D.C. function last night: “Yesterday’s election results were devastating, devastating. … Not for me, because I’ll be fine, and not even for Fenty, because he’ll be fine, but devastating for the schoolchildren of Washington, D.C.” The function, by the way, was a showing of the film “‘Waiting for Superman,’ the documentary that casts her as a tart-tongued heroine of the national education reform movement.”

A few observations. First, can you just imagine a Chris Christie–Michelle Rhee administration? (I have no idea what her party affiliation is.) Big Labor bosses would have a collective heart attack. Second, Rhee can walk into any school district that isn’t hobbled by a Vincent Gray and make a huge difference. One lucky school district will demonstrate how educational reform is done. Third, the voters of D.C. frankly get the government they deserve. Yes, the teacher’s union backed and funded Gray, but he was elected with the clear understanding that Rhee would leave. They are about to experience — again — the slothful operation of their school district. And finally, any president would be wise to snap her up as education secretary. In fact, she really has unlimited career opportunities. D.C.’s loss may be the country’s gain.

Michelle Rhee is expected to leave her post as chancellor of the Washington D.C. schools following the defeat of Mayor Adrian Fenty in the Democratic primary. Fenty had supported her aggressive reform agenda, while his primary opponent, Vincent Gray, plainly did not.

Here’s the story in a nutshell:

Gray, a genteel politician from the old school, has deep roots in the African American middle class that has been the heart of the District’s public school teacher corps. That constituency has been traumatized by many of Rhee’s reform efforts, which have included hundreds of layoffs, firings and outspoken comments about the poor quality of D.C. educators.

Rhee, like the mayor who hired her, had passions that veered more toward inputs and outcomes than collaboration and consensus. The record on her watch includes generally improved test scores, an enrollment that has stabilized after decades of decline, a labor contract that gives the District new power over teacher job assignments and an evaluation system that can lead to dismissal for instructors who score poorly.

Not hard to figure out which side you should be on, is it? Gray can’t fathom why Rhee would rock the boat:

The layoffs were bad enough, but Gray expressed particular concern about Rhee’s apparent disregard for the protocols, procedures and personal collaborations that Gray considered essential to smooth functioning within his political world. In this case, the process dictated that Rhee made sure that the council wasn’t blindsided by the news.

But Rhee displayed little interest in either process or political niceties as she rushed to implement an ambitious agenda. She told Gray that she wasn’t trying to embarrass the council, that she just wanted to protect the interests of children.

“You can choose to believe that or not,” Rhee said. …

Perhaps more than anything, Gray was mystified by what he regarded as her political tin ear, exemplified, in his view by her infamous Time magazine cover.

“I said, ‘Michelle, why would you agree to be photographed with a broom on the cover of Time magazine?’ ” Gray said in a 2009 interview. ‘What kind of message do you think that sends?’ “

It sends the message that she has no patience with hacks like Gray. And you can appreciate her comments at a D.C. function last night: “Yesterday’s election results were devastating, devastating. … Not for me, because I’ll be fine, and not even for Fenty, because he’ll be fine, but devastating for the schoolchildren of Washington, D.C.” The function, by the way, was a showing of the film “‘Waiting for Superman,’ the documentary that casts her as a tart-tongued heroine of the national education reform movement.”

A few observations. First, can you just imagine a Chris Christie–Michelle Rhee administration? (I have no idea what her party affiliation is.) Big Labor bosses would have a collective heart attack. Second, Rhee can walk into any school district that isn’t hobbled by a Vincent Gray and make a huge difference. One lucky school district will demonstrate how educational reform is done. Third, the voters of D.C. frankly get the government they deserve. Yes, the teacher’s union backed and funded Gray, but he was elected with the clear understanding that Rhee would leave. They are about to experience — again — the slothful operation of their school district. And finally, any president would be wise to snap her up as education secretary. In fact, she really has unlimited career opportunities. D.C.’s loss may be the country’s gain.

Read Less

Maybe the Peace Processors Just Don’t Have a Clue

Leslie Gelb fervently hopes that “the Obama administration did not shove Palestinians and Israelis into direct talks, for the first time in over two years, just to get them talking to each other.” Umm … but there really isn’t any evidence to the contrary, is there? No, sighs Gelb, there isn’t:

Many officials tell me that neither Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel nor President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority came close to giving Mr. Obama any specific indications of compromise in their White House meetings two weeks ago. In other words, neither offered any concrete basis for accommodation. They spoke only of being serious and bargaining in good faith, the usual stuff. Nor did either leader push Mr. Obama into these talks; Mr. Obama pushed them. Netanyahu wasn’t eager for talks at all, and Abbas favored them only with good and prior indications of success.

In fact, a PA official told the Jerusalem Post that “he had ‘no explanation’ for why some US government officials were sounding optimistic about the direct talks.” That may be the most honest statement ever uttered by a Palestinian spokesman in the past 60 years. Read More

Leslie Gelb fervently hopes that “the Obama administration did not shove Palestinians and Israelis into direct talks, for the first time in over two years, just to get them talking to each other.” Umm … but there really isn’t any evidence to the contrary, is there? No, sighs Gelb, there isn’t:

Many officials tell me that neither Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel nor President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority came close to giving Mr. Obama any specific indications of compromise in their White House meetings two weeks ago. In other words, neither offered any concrete basis for accommodation. They spoke only of being serious and bargaining in good faith, the usual stuff. Nor did either leader push Mr. Obama into these talks; Mr. Obama pushed them. Netanyahu wasn’t eager for talks at all, and Abbas favored them only with good and prior indications of success.

In fact, a PA official told the Jerusalem Post that “he had ‘no explanation’ for why some US government officials were sounding optimistic about the direct talks.” That may be the most honest statement ever uttered by a Palestinian spokesman in the past 60 years.

As many of us predicted, Obama, a peace-process worshiper of the first order, and his envoy, who is convinced that if he solved the Northern Ireland crisis he can bring peace to the Middle East, are now facing the collapse of their 18-month venture into Middle East policymaking. (By the way, given Mitchell’s performance in the Middle East, do you get the feeling that the settlement of the Northern Ireland conflict was coincidental to, not a result of, his presence?) Gelb, as many of us on the right have argued, explains why peace talks can be quite dangerous if you really don’t know what you’re doing:

The real danger between these two star-crossed inhabitants of the same Holy Land is not failure to negotiate; it’s the failure of the negotiations. Flashpoints in the Holy Land tend to burst after they sit down at the negotiating table, give their speeches, fail to agree, and watch the process collapse. That is when the explosions begin. That is when Palestinian terrorism reignites in Israel. People tend to resort to violence when their hopes and expectations are dashed formally and frontally, not when they are merely hoping.

Actually, in this case, “people” don’t — the Palestinians do. (There’s no Jewish intifada.) And the Palestinians also resorted to violence in anticipation of the talks. Really, any excuse will do.

The collapse of the talks would not merely raise the specter of another intifada; it would threaten to decimate what is left of the president’s prestige and credibility. Hence, Gelb sees reason for Bibi to spare Obama that humiliation:

The Israeli hawk understands full well, though he doesn’t like it, that he must burnish and safekeep ties with America. For the time being, that requires good ties with Mr. Obama, whom Netanyahu and his fellow hawks don’t like very much. To them, Mr. Obama sounded too pro-Arab in his first years in office, and they don’t have much trust in him. So, they have to get along with him well enough for at least another year – or until the American presidential election season erupts. At that point, these particular Israelis will pray for rain and a Republican president.

But, of course, both sides must stay in the room, and so far it seems that Abbas is itching to get out.

This brings us back to Gelb’s concern: maybe the Obami had not a clue what they were doing and now have a mess they are not equipped to clean up. And gosh, maybe the same is true of Iran. Perhaps they were silly to assume that engagement and Swiss-cheese sanctions were going to work to disarm the mullahs and now have no idea what to do. To be blunt, the president’s supporters and even some critics have both assumed that there is at work here a level of foreign policy competence and clearheadedness that may not, in fact, exist. Gelb hints that what we are dealing with are rank and arrogant amateurs. Yes, it’s scary.

Read Less

Their Time Is Now

A.B. Stoddard of The Hill writes:

Even before Christine O’Donnell handily defeated Rep. Mike Castle (R-Del.) in an epic upset Tuesday night, the Tea Parties, all of them, had already won. No matter what happens in the midterm elections on Nov. 2, the Tea Party has moved the Democrats to the right and the Republicans even more so, and President Obama’s agenda is dead. …

What debuted in nationwide protests on April 15, 2009, has taken less than 18 months to become the current driving force in American politics. The Tea Party insurgency will not only cost Democrats dozens of seats in Congress, and likely their majority — it will define the coming GOP presidential nominating process, determine the direction of the GOP for years to come and threaten any remaining plans Obama has for sweeping reforms of education, energy policy or our immigration system.

One might add to that the unification of the Republican Party around economic issues, the further erosion of the national political parties, the intellectual and emotional crack-up of the left, and another hit to the credibility of the mainstream media, which ignored or sneered at the most important political development in a decade. But is it really fair to credit only the Tea Party?

Let’s be honest, without Barack Obama, there would be no Tea Party. The Tea Party rose up in opposition to Obamaism — the serial bailouts (which began in the Bush administration), the flood of red ink, ObamaCare, and the tone-deaf response of the former community organizer to complaints about it all. I would suggest that without Obama’s attempts to lay a New Foundation — the vast expansion of federal power shifting the U.S. closer to Western European economies — the Tea Party would never have emerged or taken hold.

It was the over-interpretation of an electoral mandate, a zealously liberal president, and the arrogance of one-party Democratic rule that spawned what Stoddard rightly suggests is the most interesting and unpredictable political movement of our time. And we are far from done. Election Day is the beginning and not the end. In January, I wrote, “The Tea Party folks seem to think their time is now.” It took just nine months for the mainstream media to agree.

A.B. Stoddard of The Hill writes:

Even before Christine O’Donnell handily defeated Rep. Mike Castle (R-Del.) in an epic upset Tuesday night, the Tea Parties, all of them, had already won. No matter what happens in the midterm elections on Nov. 2, the Tea Party has moved the Democrats to the right and the Republicans even more so, and President Obama’s agenda is dead. …

What debuted in nationwide protests on April 15, 2009, has taken less than 18 months to become the current driving force in American politics. The Tea Party insurgency will not only cost Democrats dozens of seats in Congress, and likely their majority — it will define the coming GOP presidential nominating process, determine the direction of the GOP for years to come and threaten any remaining plans Obama has for sweeping reforms of education, energy policy or our immigration system.

One might add to that the unification of the Republican Party around economic issues, the further erosion of the national political parties, the intellectual and emotional crack-up of the left, and another hit to the credibility of the mainstream media, which ignored or sneered at the most important political development in a decade. But is it really fair to credit only the Tea Party?

Let’s be honest, without Barack Obama, there would be no Tea Party. The Tea Party rose up in opposition to Obamaism — the serial bailouts (which began in the Bush administration), the flood of red ink, ObamaCare, and the tone-deaf response of the former community organizer to complaints about it all. I would suggest that without Obama’s attempts to lay a New Foundation — the vast expansion of federal power shifting the U.S. closer to Western European economies — the Tea Party would never have emerged or taken hold.

It was the over-interpretation of an electoral mandate, a zealously liberal president, and the arrogance of one-party Democratic rule that spawned what Stoddard rightly suggests is the most interesting and unpredictable political movement of our time. And we are far from done. Election Day is the beginning and not the end. In January, I wrote, “The Tea Party folks seem to think their time is now.” It took just nine months for the mainstream media to agree.

Read Less

Brooks and the Tea Party

David Brooks steps forward to defend the Tea Party movement. He writes:

Many of my liberal friends are convinced that the Republican Party has a death wish. It is sprinting to the right-most fever swamps of American life. It will end up alienating the moderate voters it needs to win elections. There’s only one problem with this theory. There is no evidence to support it. …

I asked the election guru Charlie Cook if there were signs that the Tea Party was scaring away the independents. “I haven’t seen any,” he replied. I asked another Hall of Fame pollster, Peter Hart, if there were Republican or independent voters so alarmed by the Tea Party that they might alter their votes. He ran the numbers and found very few potential defectors.

Brooks is dead on when he observes that “as the Tea Party has surged, so has the G.O.P.” This does not mean that every Tea Party candidate is going to win in the general election, and some have serious issues. (Although, as Brooks notes, even a “weak” candidate like Sharron Angle is deadlocked with the majority leader.) But is that the standard for success in American politics — that you win every race? Certainly not.

Brooks then feels compelled — this is the New York Times, you know — to deride the movement for “some of the worst excesses of modern American culture: a narcissistic sense of victimization, an egomaniacal belief in one’s own rightness and purity, a willingness to distort the truth so that every conflict becomes a contest of pure good versus pure evil.” The evidence for this? He doesn’t say, but he does chide others for “untethered assertions.” It is hard for pundits, I think, to cope with a grassroots movement that has no single leader and no official platform; while individuals who seek to associate themselves with the movement may be subject to these faults, is a movement of millions, then, guilty as a group? Are millions of Americans playing the victim card? And by the way, that list of defects does aptly describe one political figure: the president.

In the end, Brooks backtracks, claiming that “the Tea Party doesn’t matter.” It’s the economy and objection to “one-party Democratic control” that are the deciding factors. Well, the Tea Party is either the key to the GOP’s success or irrelevant — take your pick. From my vantage point, it is both a result of one-party Democratic rule and the best thing to happen to the GOP since Ronald Reagan. That doesn’t mean its candidates will all win, but when the GOP picks up oodles of seats, much of the credit will go to the Tea Partiers.

David Brooks steps forward to defend the Tea Party movement. He writes:

Many of my liberal friends are convinced that the Republican Party has a death wish. It is sprinting to the right-most fever swamps of American life. It will end up alienating the moderate voters it needs to win elections. There’s only one problem with this theory. There is no evidence to support it. …

I asked the election guru Charlie Cook if there were signs that the Tea Party was scaring away the independents. “I haven’t seen any,” he replied. I asked another Hall of Fame pollster, Peter Hart, if there were Republican or independent voters so alarmed by the Tea Party that they might alter their votes. He ran the numbers and found very few potential defectors.

Brooks is dead on when he observes that “as the Tea Party has surged, so has the G.O.P.” This does not mean that every Tea Party candidate is going to win in the general election, and some have serious issues. (Although, as Brooks notes, even a “weak” candidate like Sharron Angle is deadlocked with the majority leader.) But is that the standard for success in American politics — that you win every race? Certainly not.

Brooks then feels compelled — this is the New York Times, you know — to deride the movement for “some of the worst excesses of modern American culture: a narcissistic sense of victimization, an egomaniacal belief in one’s own rightness and purity, a willingness to distort the truth so that every conflict becomes a contest of pure good versus pure evil.” The evidence for this? He doesn’t say, but he does chide others for “untethered assertions.” It is hard for pundits, I think, to cope with a grassroots movement that has no single leader and no official platform; while individuals who seek to associate themselves with the movement may be subject to these faults, is a movement of millions, then, guilty as a group? Are millions of Americans playing the victim card? And by the way, that list of defects does aptly describe one political figure: the president.

In the end, Brooks backtracks, claiming that “the Tea Party doesn’t matter.” It’s the economy and objection to “one-party Democratic control” that are the deciding factors. Well, the Tea Party is either the key to the GOP’s success or irrelevant — take your pick. From my vantage point, it is both a result of one-party Democratic rule and the best thing to happen to the GOP since Ronald Reagan. That doesn’t mean its candidates will all win, but when the GOP picks up oodles of seats, much of the credit will go to the Tea Partiers.

Read Less

RE: It’s Not About Settlements

As Jennifer noted yesterday in her comments on Giora Eiland’s Ynet op-ed, Palestinian unwillingness to recognize Israel as a Jewish state is the make-or-break issue of the peace process. She’s also correct that the Obama administration shows no signs of recognizing this fact. But two recent developments make this blindness particularly puzzling.

First, the critical importance of recognition is not an obscure point that an honest broker could easily overlook; it has by now become glaringly obvious to an overwhelming majority of ordinary Americans.

In an Israel Project poll released this week, 63 percent of respondents said the Israeli-Palestinian conflict “is mostly about religion and ideology,” so “the key to peace is each side acknowledging the other’s right to exist.” That is double the 32 percent who thought it’s “mostly about land,” so “the key to peace is figuring out how to divide the land they share, establish borders, and address Jerusalem.”

Nor did respondents have trouble identifying which party was actually unwilling to recognize the other: 61 percent said Israel was “more committed” to reaching a deal; only 11 percent chose the Palestinians.

But the administration’s inability to grasp what is obvious to most Americans is even more bewildering given that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has spared no effort recently to drive the point home.

Even at the talks’ gala Washington launch on September 2, when both sides were presumably at their most conciliatory, Abbas used the opening ceremony to announce that he would never recognize Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people.

A few days later, he told the Al-Quds newspaper that he won’t even discuss recognizing Israel as a Jewish state. And if he’s pressured to make any concessions on this point, or on the refugees’ “right of return” — a euphemism for eradicating the Jewish state through demography — he will “pack his bags and leave.”

Other leading Palestinian officials, such as senior negotiator Nabil Shaath, have echoed this refusal to recognize Israel as a Jewish state.

Yet Barack Obama and his team still insist, in the teeth of all this evidence, that the most critical issue is getting Israel to continue its moratorium on settlement construction. “I told [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu that ‘you’ve got to show president Abbas that you’re serious,’” he told reporters last week.

And this week, U.S. mediator George Mitchell once again touted his favorite idea (Hebrew only): that the talks for now should focus solely on borders, because once the border is finalized, settlement construction — which is clearly Washington’s primary concern — would cease to be an issue. But Netanyahu again rejected it, pointing out that in practice, this means Israel ceding land without the Palestinians’ having to address any of Israel’s main concerns, like recognition.

In last week’s interview, Obama also said that “the only way to succeed [in the talks] is to see the world through the other person’s eyes.” Perhaps he should take his own advice and look at the world through Israeli, or even ordinary American, eyes. For unless he grasps that the real issue is not settlements, but recognition, negotiations don’t have a prayer.

As Jennifer noted yesterday in her comments on Giora Eiland’s Ynet op-ed, Palestinian unwillingness to recognize Israel as a Jewish state is the make-or-break issue of the peace process. She’s also correct that the Obama administration shows no signs of recognizing this fact. But two recent developments make this blindness particularly puzzling.

First, the critical importance of recognition is not an obscure point that an honest broker could easily overlook; it has by now become glaringly obvious to an overwhelming majority of ordinary Americans.

In an Israel Project poll released this week, 63 percent of respondents said the Israeli-Palestinian conflict “is mostly about religion and ideology,” so “the key to peace is each side acknowledging the other’s right to exist.” That is double the 32 percent who thought it’s “mostly about land,” so “the key to peace is figuring out how to divide the land they share, establish borders, and address Jerusalem.”

Nor did respondents have trouble identifying which party was actually unwilling to recognize the other: 61 percent said Israel was “more committed” to reaching a deal; only 11 percent chose the Palestinians.

But the administration’s inability to grasp what is obvious to most Americans is even more bewildering given that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has spared no effort recently to drive the point home.

Even at the talks’ gala Washington launch on September 2, when both sides were presumably at their most conciliatory, Abbas used the opening ceremony to announce that he would never recognize Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people.

A few days later, he told the Al-Quds newspaper that he won’t even discuss recognizing Israel as a Jewish state. And if he’s pressured to make any concessions on this point, or on the refugees’ “right of return” — a euphemism for eradicating the Jewish state through demography — he will “pack his bags and leave.”

Other leading Palestinian officials, such as senior negotiator Nabil Shaath, have echoed this refusal to recognize Israel as a Jewish state.

Yet Barack Obama and his team still insist, in the teeth of all this evidence, that the most critical issue is getting Israel to continue its moratorium on settlement construction. “I told [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu that ‘you’ve got to show president Abbas that you’re serious,’” he told reporters last week.

And this week, U.S. mediator George Mitchell once again touted his favorite idea (Hebrew only): that the talks for now should focus solely on borders, because once the border is finalized, settlement construction — which is clearly Washington’s primary concern — would cease to be an issue. But Netanyahu again rejected it, pointing out that in practice, this means Israel ceding land without the Palestinians’ having to address any of Israel’s main concerns, like recognition.

In last week’s interview, Obama also said that “the only way to succeed [in the talks] is to see the world through the other person’s eyes.” Perhaps he should take his own advice and look at the world through Israeli, or even ordinary American, eyes. For unless he grasps that the real issue is not settlements, but recognition, negotiations don’t have a prayer.

Read Less

You Want a Bellwether?

There is no better predictor of electoral fortunes than Ohio. It is the best microcosm of the electorate we have. In 2008, Ohio told us that Obama had captured the votes of working-class whites and independents. In 2010, Ohio tells us that the president and his party are in very big trouble. The Quinnipiac poll reports:

Republican Rob Portman holds a 55 – 35 percent lead over Democratic Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher among likely voters in the race for Ohio’s U.S. Senate seat, while President Barack Obama has a 60 – 38 percent disapproval rating, according to a new Quinnipiac University poll. By a 58 – 37 percent margin, likely Ohio voters want a U.S. Senator who opposes President Obama’s policies, the independent Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh-pe-ack) University survey, conducted by live interviewers, finds. And by 49 – 31 percent, voters want Republicans rather than Democrats to control the U.S. Senate.

“Among the likely Ohio electorate for this November, President Barack Obama is not a popular fellow. Independent likely voters disapprove 65 – 31 percent of the job he is doing. With the president such a heavy weight around the neck of Democratic candidates, it will be hard for one to win such a high-profile office this year in Ohio,” Brown said.

One reason for the president’s poor rating, at least in Ohio, is his health care overhaul plan. Likely voters disapprove of it by a 65 – 30 percent margin.

“White House senior advisor David Axelrod says Americans will come to like the health insurance plan, but it sure doesn’t look like that will be the case in Ohio by Nov. 2,” said Brown.

Overall, Ohio voters disapprove of Obama’s performance by a stunning 60 to 38 percent margin. In 2008, Obama carried the state by a 52 to 47 percent margin. That is about as stunning a reversal in political standing as you will find in American politics.

There is no better predictor of electoral fortunes than Ohio. It is the best microcosm of the electorate we have. In 2008, Ohio told us that Obama had captured the votes of working-class whites and independents. In 2010, Ohio tells us that the president and his party are in very big trouble. The Quinnipiac poll reports:

Republican Rob Portman holds a 55 – 35 percent lead over Democratic Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher among likely voters in the race for Ohio’s U.S. Senate seat, while President Barack Obama has a 60 – 38 percent disapproval rating, according to a new Quinnipiac University poll. By a 58 – 37 percent margin, likely Ohio voters want a U.S. Senator who opposes President Obama’s policies, the independent Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh-pe-ack) University survey, conducted by live interviewers, finds. And by 49 – 31 percent, voters want Republicans rather than Democrats to control the U.S. Senate.

“Among the likely Ohio electorate for this November, President Barack Obama is not a popular fellow. Independent likely voters disapprove 65 – 31 percent of the job he is doing. With the president such a heavy weight around the neck of Democratic candidates, it will be hard for one to win such a high-profile office this year in Ohio,” Brown said.

One reason for the president’s poor rating, at least in Ohio, is his health care overhaul plan. Likely voters disapprove of it by a 65 – 30 percent margin.

“White House senior advisor David Axelrod says Americans will come to like the health insurance plan, but it sure doesn’t look like that will be the case in Ohio by Nov. 2,” said Brown.

Overall, Ohio voters disapprove of Obama’s performance by a stunning 60 to 38 percent margin. In 2008, Obama carried the state by a 52 to 47 percent margin. That is about as stunning a reversal in political standing as you will find in American politics.

Read Less

The Delaware Lesson

Charles Krauthammer explains many conservatives’ frustration over Christine O’Donnell’s upset primary win:

The very people who have most alerted the country to the perils of President Obama’s social democratic agenda may have just made it impossible for Republicans to retake the Senate and definitively stop that agenda. …

That’s what makes the eleventh-hour endorsements of O’Donnell by Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) and Sarah Palin so reckless and irresponsible.

I would offer two caveats, although I agree with the sentiment. (By the way, there is much less upset with the Tea Partiers who have proved their value to the party and championed many excellent candidates than with the two supposedly professional pols). First, there are other routes (through California, Wisconsin, Illinois, etc.) to get to control of the Senate, but it sure is harder to take the Senate if Delaware is not a “solid Republican” but a “solid Democratic” race. And second, a bare majority in the Senate will not be sufficient to rip up the Obama agenda, although it sure would make a difference in confirmation fights, committee hearings, investigations, etc. That said, there is a reason why some are upset.

Krauthammer reminds us:

Bill Buckley — no Mike Castle he — had a rule: Support the most conservative candidate who is electable. …

Of course Mike Castle is a liberal Republican. What do you expect from Delaware? A DeMint? Castle voted against Obamacare and the stimulus. Yes, he voted for cap-and-trade. That’s batting .667. You’d rather have a Democrat who bats .000 and who might give the Democrats the 50th vote to control the Senate?

So Krauthammer suggests DeMint and Palin go to Delaware. (“You made it possible. Now make it happen.”) But Palin has fessed up that she might do more harm than good. (Yesterday, Palin on Fox News explained: “I’ll do whatever I can. I want to help, though, and not hurt. And, you know, sometimes it’s a double edged sword there if my name is connected to anybody.”) Because, for Pete’s sake, this is Delaware!

Perhaps, like John Boehner, the GOP will get lucky and O’Donnell will either pull a stunning upset win (bizarre things have already happened this year, but this would surely rank up there) or the party will find some other route to majority status in the Senate. Alternatively, if the GOP picks up only seven or eight states, the single Delaware seat would not have been all that critical.

Still, Delaware is a lesson worth absorbing as the prelims for 2012 get underway. The task for the GOP will be to find a standard bearer that is in the Marco Rubio mold and not in the Christine O’Donnell mold. If that message is internalized, maybe the lost seat will have been worth it to the GOP. Better to blow Delaware in 2010 than the presidency in 2012.

Charles Krauthammer explains many conservatives’ frustration over Christine O’Donnell’s upset primary win:

The very people who have most alerted the country to the perils of President Obama’s social democratic agenda may have just made it impossible for Republicans to retake the Senate and definitively stop that agenda. …

That’s what makes the eleventh-hour endorsements of O’Donnell by Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) and Sarah Palin so reckless and irresponsible.

I would offer two caveats, although I agree with the sentiment. (By the way, there is much less upset with the Tea Partiers who have proved their value to the party and championed many excellent candidates than with the two supposedly professional pols). First, there are other routes (through California, Wisconsin, Illinois, etc.) to get to control of the Senate, but it sure is harder to take the Senate if Delaware is not a “solid Republican” but a “solid Democratic” race. And second, a bare majority in the Senate will not be sufficient to rip up the Obama agenda, although it sure would make a difference in confirmation fights, committee hearings, investigations, etc. That said, there is a reason why some are upset.

Krauthammer reminds us:

Bill Buckley — no Mike Castle he — had a rule: Support the most conservative candidate who is electable. …

Of course Mike Castle is a liberal Republican. What do you expect from Delaware? A DeMint? Castle voted against Obamacare and the stimulus. Yes, he voted for cap-and-trade. That’s batting .667. You’d rather have a Democrat who bats .000 and who might give the Democrats the 50th vote to control the Senate?

So Krauthammer suggests DeMint and Palin go to Delaware. (“You made it possible. Now make it happen.”) But Palin has fessed up that she might do more harm than good. (Yesterday, Palin on Fox News explained: “I’ll do whatever I can. I want to help, though, and not hurt. And, you know, sometimes it’s a double edged sword there if my name is connected to anybody.”) Because, for Pete’s sake, this is Delaware!

Perhaps, like John Boehner, the GOP will get lucky and O’Donnell will either pull a stunning upset win (bizarre things have already happened this year, but this would surely rank up there) or the party will find some other route to majority status in the Senate. Alternatively, if the GOP picks up only seven or eight states, the single Delaware seat would not have been all that critical.

Still, Delaware is a lesson worth absorbing as the prelims for 2012 get underway. The task for the GOP will be to find a standard bearer that is in the Marco Rubio mold and not in the Christine O’Donnell mold. If that message is internalized, maybe the lost seat will have been worth it to the GOP. Better to blow Delaware in 2010 than the presidency in 2012.

Read Less

Democrats Raise White Flag in Class Warfare Gambit?

The Democrats have bollixed up what was supposed to be a “populist” (i.e., class warfare) midterm-election ploy –the extension of the Bush tax cuts for all but the “rich” (small businesses, investors, etc.). It turns out that the recession made Americans neither more envious of the rich nor more enamored of liberal statism but instead more sensitive to the need to bolster employers, foster growth, and abstain from doing things that make the economy even weaker (like  passing a mammoth tax and regulatory bill improperly labeled “health-care reform”).

As Kim Strassel explains:

The political problem Democrats have is self-created. Rather than embrace the winner of full tax relief, President Obama has chosen to draw an ideological line and to motivate his liberal base with his position against tax cuts “for the rich.” Democrats are now fearful that if they cave it will demoralize that base, and further handicap them in midterm races.

But if Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi don’t thrown in the towel on the Obama gambit, they may not be able to muster a majority for the president anyway, thereby embarrassing themselves (and him) and ensuring the defeat of any members silly enough to stick with the sinking U.S.S. Pelosi.

They might, as Strassel suggests, punt — do nothing before fleeing town. But that would look rather lame:

This option is, however, not so popular among many rank-and-file Democrats. Perhaps the only thing worse than being accused of voting for $700 billion in tax increases is being accused of doing nothing and allowing $4 trillion in tax increases, most of them on average Americans. Democrats will blame Republicans, but that will be hard to do if Democrats don’t even go through the vote motions.

The Republicans are exceptionally fortunate to have such inept opponents. If they can avoid the impulse to give away something for nothing (and in fairness to John Boehner, he’s pretty much abandoned his Sunday talk show mondo gaffe), they might not only win some political points but also drive a stake through the left, which for decades has inveighed against tax breaks for the “rich.” Finally, it seems we may all be Reagan supply siders. Conservative have every right to gloat.

The Democrats have bollixed up what was supposed to be a “populist” (i.e., class warfare) midterm-election ploy –the extension of the Bush tax cuts for all but the “rich” (small businesses, investors, etc.). It turns out that the recession made Americans neither more envious of the rich nor more enamored of liberal statism but instead more sensitive to the need to bolster employers, foster growth, and abstain from doing things that make the economy even weaker (like  passing a mammoth tax and regulatory bill improperly labeled “health-care reform”).

As Kim Strassel explains:

The political problem Democrats have is self-created. Rather than embrace the winner of full tax relief, President Obama has chosen to draw an ideological line and to motivate his liberal base with his position against tax cuts “for the rich.” Democrats are now fearful that if they cave it will demoralize that base, and further handicap them in midterm races.

But if Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi don’t thrown in the towel on the Obama gambit, they may not be able to muster a majority for the president anyway, thereby embarrassing themselves (and him) and ensuring the defeat of any members silly enough to stick with the sinking U.S.S. Pelosi.

They might, as Strassel suggests, punt — do nothing before fleeing town. But that would look rather lame:

This option is, however, not so popular among many rank-and-file Democrats. Perhaps the only thing worse than being accused of voting for $700 billion in tax increases is being accused of doing nothing and allowing $4 trillion in tax increases, most of them on average Americans. Democrats will blame Republicans, but that will be hard to do if Democrats don’t even go through the vote motions.

The Republicans are exceptionally fortunate to have such inept opponents. If they can avoid the impulse to give away something for nothing (and in fairness to John Boehner, he’s pretty much abandoned his Sunday talk show mondo gaffe), they might not only win some political points but also drive a stake through the left, which for decades has inveighed against tax breaks for the “rich.” Finally, it seems we may all be Reagan supply siders. Conservative have every right to gloat.

Read Less

Flotsam and Jetsam

Thanks a lot, Harry. A Chris Coon spokesman: “Chris is not anyone’s pet and will not be a rubber stamp for anyone.”

Thanks to the president, who decided his October surprise would be a class-warfare vote on the Bush tax cuts (and the threat that the speaker would be dethroned), Nancy Pelosi has now opened the door to a full extension of those cuts. Minority Leader John Boehner should send her flowers.

Thanks a lot, Joe. The VP lectures the liberal base to step it up. In case they didn’t know, there is much at stake.

Thankfully, every school district in the country would want her: “As soon as it became clear that D.C. voters had rejected incumbent Mayor Adrian Fenty in favor of D.C. Council Chairman Vincent Gray, the talk of the town turned to someone not on Tuesday’s primary ballot: D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee. Because Rhee’s effort to reform D.C. schools has been so closely tied to the Fenty administration, and because the controversial chancellor has clashed with Gray, speculation is rampant about whether Rhee will stay or go.”

Obama says the poor should be thanking him: “President Barack Obama, responding to a report that the poverty rate in 2009 was at its highest since 1994, on Thursday said his economic stimulus spending has kept millions of Americans out of poverty.”

Cliff May argues that American Muslims should be thankful they live in such a tolerant and inclusive society. Read the whole thing.

Thanks to about 1,600 voters (Ayotte’s margin in the primary), it looks like Republicans will keep the New Hampshire Senate seat. “The latest Rasmussen Reports statewide telephone survey of Likely Voters shows Ayotte picking up 51% of the vote, while Hodes, a congressman, draws support from 44%, his best showing to date.”

Thanks a lot, Harry. A Chris Coon spokesman: “Chris is not anyone’s pet and will not be a rubber stamp for anyone.”

Thanks to the president, who decided his October surprise would be a class-warfare vote on the Bush tax cuts (and the threat that the speaker would be dethroned), Nancy Pelosi has now opened the door to a full extension of those cuts. Minority Leader John Boehner should send her flowers.

Thanks a lot, Joe. The VP lectures the liberal base to step it up. In case they didn’t know, there is much at stake.

Thankfully, every school district in the country would want her: “As soon as it became clear that D.C. voters had rejected incumbent Mayor Adrian Fenty in favor of D.C. Council Chairman Vincent Gray, the talk of the town turned to someone not on Tuesday’s primary ballot: D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee. Because Rhee’s effort to reform D.C. schools has been so closely tied to the Fenty administration, and because the controversial chancellor has clashed with Gray, speculation is rampant about whether Rhee will stay or go.”

Obama says the poor should be thanking him: “President Barack Obama, responding to a report that the poverty rate in 2009 was at its highest since 1994, on Thursday said his economic stimulus spending has kept millions of Americans out of poverty.”

Cliff May argues that American Muslims should be thankful they live in such a tolerant and inclusive society. Read the whole thing.

Thanks to about 1,600 voters (Ayotte’s margin in the primary), it looks like Republicans will keep the New Hampshire Senate seat. “The latest Rasmussen Reports statewide telephone survey of Likely Voters shows Ayotte picking up 51% of the vote, while Hodes, a congressman, draws support from 44%, his best showing to date.”

Read Less




Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor to our site, you are allowed 8 free articles this month.
This is your first of 8 free articles.

If you are already a digital subscriber, log in here »

Print subscriber? For free access to the website and iPad, register here »

To subscribe, click here to see our subscription offers »

Please note this is an advertisement skip this ad
Clearly, you have a passion for ideas.
Subscribe today for unlimited digital access to the publication that shapes the minds of the people who shape our world.
Get for just
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor, you are allowed 8 free articles.
This is your first article.
You have read of 8 free articles this month.
YOU HAVE READ 8 OF 8
FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
for full access to
CommentaryMagazine.com
INCLUDES FULL ACCESS TO:
Digital subscriber?
Print subscriber? Get free access »
Call to subscribe: 1-800-829-6270
You can also subscribe
on your computer at
CommentaryMagazine.com.
LOG IN WITH YOUR
COMMENTARY MAGAZINE ID
Don't have a CommentaryMagazine.com log in?
CREATE A COMMENTARY
LOG IN ID
Enter you email address and password below. A confirmation email will be sent to the email address that you provide.